Debate over the Up in Smoke Study

April 26, 2012 · 1 comment

There is a current debate over a study entitled Up in Smoke: The Influence of Household Behavior on the Long-Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves by Rema Hanna of Harvard University and others. 

From the report summary: “We provide new evidence from a randomized control trial conducted in rural Orissa, India of the benefits of a commonly used improved stove that had been shown to reduce indoor air pollution and require less fuel in laboratory tests. We find no evidence of improvements in lung functioning or health and there is no change in fuel consumption (and presumably greenhouse gas emissions). The difference between the laboratory and this study’s field findings appears to result from households’ revealed low valuation of the stoves.”

Below are links to editorials and articles that discuss the Up in Smoke study and we welcome your comments on this as well.

  • An April 16, 2012 editorial by Brian Palmer in the Washington Post summarized the article and concludes that”we’re not yet ready to distribute clean stoves worldwide” and quotes one of the study’s co-authors that “this isn’t an argument against spending money; it’s an argument against spending money unwisely.”
  • Also, an April 23, 2012 New York Times blog post, The Cookstove Conumdrum by Vivek Dehejia, an economics professor at Carleton University, cites the Palmer editorial.

In response to the above articles:

  • Kirk Smith, of the University of California, Berkeley submitted a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post. Dr. Smith states, ” The so-called “improved” stove in the Indian study reported on by Brian Palmer (“Too many cookstoves spoil the effort to cut indoor air pollution” April 17) was not clean in any important way and so of course did not improve health. It was a simple local stove that did not change combustion to reduce smoke.”
  • Radha Muthiah, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, issued the following statement, Time is Right, Time is Now for Clean Cookstoves. “The Alliance’s mission is to foster sustainable markets for technologies that people want, can afford, and will ultimately use. It is unfortunate that a misleading headline and a narrowly focused article have the potential to create the wrong impression and cause a setback to a sector poised to deliver lasting, beneficial, innovative change to one of the oldest and most intimate of human traditions: cooking a meal for oneself and one’s family.”
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Teddy May 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm

The people who generally buy our charcoal ovens cook with them outside of the house. Especially in hot areas like Mombasa and unless your neighbors steal your tasty dinner, cooking outside on a stand alone charcoal burning convection oven greatly reduces the amount of IAP.


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